U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jimmy Covas stood with his eyes closed, pointing an air rifle at a target. He took three deep breaths, opened his eyes, and then pulled the trigger.
Covas is one of the 300 athletes competing in the 2019 Warrior Games.
The games, which are taking place in multiple locations around Tampa this week, feature injured, ill and wounded military service members from six different countries.
Last year, Covas won a gold medal in rifle shooting. He hopes to defend that title this year.
“The whole experience was so emotional,” Covas said of his win last year. “It's something that I don't think I've ever felt. With my wife there also, sharing that experience with her, it was beyond belief.”
Covas isn’t the only athlete hoping for victory this week. U.S. Air Force Capt. Heather Wright is competing in five events: cycling, rowing, shooting, swimming, and field.
She's already won a gold medal in cycling this week, and while she hopes to add to that total, she acknowledges that this week is about more than just victory.
“The Warrior Games are unique in the sense that we’re all here to win and do our best, but it’s a celebration just to be here. We’re celebrating the fact that we’re alive and flourishing despite what we’re going through,” she said.
The Warrior Games are an opportunity for injured service members to show how powerful they really are. According to Mark Daniels, a wheelchair basketball player from Australia, it’s a time for them to feel normal despite their disabilities.
“Back home you feel quite alone. You can’t compete with your friends anymore, you can’t do normal sport. But then you come to an event like this, and people who don’t have a disability are the ones who stand out.”
Teams participating in the 2019 Warrior Games represent Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and U.S. Special Operations Command.
The athletes compete in 14 different sports over the course of ten days. Events are free and open to the public. Below are the events for the rest of the week.
Tuesday: Archery Finals, Indoor Rowing, Wheelchair Basketball
Wednesday: Cycling road race, Wheelchair Rugby, Sitting Volleyball
Thursday: Shooting, Wheelchair Rugby, Sitting Volleyball
Friday: Shooting, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Basketball
Sunday: Sitting Volleyball, Closing Ceremony